Making a Change

This post is prompted by the fact that I wake up this morning in a very unusual frame of mind. School is over. I have invested the last five years finishing a Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree. In fact, the last two years have found me consumed by classes with no more than a one to two-week breaks between terms. Daunting at times, yes, but this became my norm. What do I do now? Where do I go from here? The fact that I awake to a day and even a week where I have no assignments due, no assessments to prepare for leaves a strange feeling. Almost a feeling of nothing.

Of course, nothing may be a misnomer. I must continue my job search. The reason I returned to school those years ago was in preparation for a job transition. Something that was terrifying then, and remains not so comfortable now. I have invested over twenty-five years in healthcare. Now I have made the decision–along with my wife–to change direction, set a new course. In truth, I am chasing a dream. A dream to not only become a published writer but to also share my love of the craft with students in the classroom.

Lunacy or Sanity?

I am not alone. There are hundreds and thousands of individuals today who are making the decision to change course after what many would consider a life-long career. They walk away to pursue something new. Sometimes it may be to chase a dream, other times it may simply be to seek a change because after twenty or thirty years they have all but burned out.

Many of you will look at me and these other individuals as crazy. Why jump ship after so long? That is a question not easily answered and one which actually prompts us to seek a change, to begin with.

Those who regularly follow my blog know that I have tried to make a return to another of my loves–hiking and more recently backpacking. My family has renewed our quest to get back to nature for our own sanity and well being–finding a peace in the storm and chaos of the everyday world. Nature like Cataract Falls in the picture above. These falls are a prime example of finding solitude. This is actually where my wife and I married and we return here on a regular basis reminded of that day. I would not even call the trip a hike, it is more of a short walk. The falls lie unknown to many no more than half-a-mile behind the Sugarlands visitors center in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The walk is level and easy but when you reach those falls, they are always magical. The cascading water whether trickling after a dry spell or flowing freely from each rocky transition washes away thoughts of everyday life. The falls leave behind a fresh and renewed feeling or sense of being.

This reminded me also of the testimonies of many thru-hikers who have checked out of the real world for a time to complete long-range hikes like the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, or Continental Divide Trail. Most if not all of these individuals talk about being dissatisfied with where they are whether on a personal level, professional level, or both. They eject from the “real” world to find themselves and return with a new perspective on life.

But Why?

But you still haven’t answered the question, why does anyone walk away from life to chase this dream? I have spent some time considering the possible answers. I’m not sure that there is indeed an answer that will suit everyone. At least in my case, I believe it came down to making mistakes in motivation.

Everyone wants to be successful and for most this is measured in monetary wealth. I understand now how wrong this idea is, but coming fresh out of high school was another story. I had spent a couple years approaching high school graduation listening to teachers, advisors, recruiters, and parents push the idea of what field I wanted to pursue in college. What vocation did I want to choose? I had no clue, I had no concept of the ramifications of the choice even. Instead of taking the idea seriously, consulting God on what path I should allow Him to lead me on, I began looking for careers which could give me the quickest return monetarily with the least investment in time spent in education.

I ended up, after changing my mind a couple of times and wasting my first two years of college with a full scholarship, in healthcare as a Physical Therapist Assistant. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the job. Loved meeting people–my patients and their families. But two things happened. First, I went from a broke high school and college student to suddenly making a very large salary. I had no idea how to manage it, quickly wasted it, and now have nothing to show for that career other than lessons learned. Second, I had those nagging thoughts in the back of my mind that kept saying, “What if?”

Never Too Late

Those of you who share my faith know that God has a way of getting a hold of you eventually. After twenty years, He led me back to school and blest me with a supportive family which allowed me to finish my degrees. Where am I going now? I have no idea, but I do know that I am trying to be more mindful of where God wants me to go. I will take the paths He lays before me and continue along them until He shows me where to turn. Sure some days the outcome looks bleak, and at the end of the day, I question this decision. He always responds to keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep trusting and following.

In a way, that is why these words are bleeding onto the screen. I know I’m not alone. My family is on this journey with me. But I also know that there are more of you traveling similar paths. You need to know that you are not alone. You may question your direction every day, but you just have to put one foot in front of the other and keep on the course. In the end, it will be worth it. That may not be today, tomorrow, or even next week. But that day is coming. The day when you will leap from the chaos and scream, “I have arrived.”